Empty display case at Norms La Cienega. Photo by Alison Martino/Vintage LA
Alison Martino, the creator of the mega-successful Facebook community Vintage Los Angeles, lives across the street from the Norms on La Cienega. She was already concerned about the news, which we posted yesterday, that new owners have received a demolition permit from the city of Los Angeles for the Googie-style 1950s coffee shop. She went over and took a look, and was stunned to discover that the display cases which usually contain food items are already empty. "It's a shame this wasn't landmarked years ago," Martino told me.
Meanwhile, the city's Cultural Heritage Commission just voted to look into the possibility of monument status for this Norms. That will legally delay any attempt to tear down the restaurant, at least for awhile. The commission heard from architectural historians about the rarity of intact Googie coffee shops, including from Alan Hess, who wrote the book on Googie and the historic-cultural monument application for Norms. A lawyer for the owners of Norms said they had no immediate plans to tear down the place, and that the demolition permit was just in case there may be redevelopment options down the road.
LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne has been live-tweeting the meeting.
Hess: Norms has always been a rare example of LA modernism--unlike so many great private houses--that the average person could enter— ChristopherHawthorne (@HawthorneLAT) January 15, 2015
Hess: also this Norms is extraordinarily well preserved, esp considering it has been open 24 hrs a day since 1958— ChristopherHawthorne (@HawthorneLAT) January 15, 2015
Arch historian Daniel Paul now testifying. Says there are 3 great Googie restaurants left -- Panns, Bob's Big Boy Toluca Lake & this Norms— ChristopherHawthorne (@HawthorneLAT) January 15, 2015
Attorney for Norms new owner: "We want to make the record clear"; there are "no immediate plans to demolish this property."— ChristopherHawthorne (@HawthorneLAT) January 15, 2015
For those who like Norms as an eatery, the chain's Facebook page offers reassurance.
NORMS Restaurants has sold but we have not sold our soul. While our owners have changed we will remain the same. Same great food, same great prices, same great staff. Thank you for your support, you are what makes NORMS—NORMS, you are family. NORMS is SoCal. NORMS Restaurants. Where Life Happens — 24/7.
Also this from New York architectural critic Paul Goldberger:
@hawthornelat I think we can now truly say that the movement to protect Norms is national. I hope Panns not in danger, too.— Paul Goldberger (@paulgoldberger) January 15, 2015
By the way: I'm adopting the apostrophe-free usage of Norms that the restaurant itself uses, as does those in the know like Alan Hess.